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You’ve heard about coral bleaching before. It has been going on for years. It is feared to have a devastating effect on our planet.

You may have wondered how corals get bleached? There are three stages.

Stage 1: Corals and microscopic algae called zooxanthellae have a symbiotic relationship. The algae live in the corals' tissue while the algae are the coral’s primary food source. A healthy coral has algae on it because they rely on each other for survival.

Stage 2: Once the symbiotic is stressed, the algae leave the coral’s tissue.

Stage 3: Corals become bleached once the algae have left. Bleached corals become white or very pale. This is because when the algae are gone, corals lose their major source of food. They get more vulnerable to diseases.

Causes

Increased ocean temperature: Climate change is the leading cause of coral bleaching. Drainage also carries pollutants, which can bleach corals near the shore.

Sunlight overexposure: Corals on the shallow water get bleached when there is high solar irradiance. Solar Irradiance is the analysis of how much solar power you are getting at your location. The higher the temperature is, solar irradiance also gets high.

Intense low tide: When corals in shallow water are overly exposed to the air during low tide, it also causes coral bleaching.

Impacts of Coral Bleaching

What can we do? Can an average man help to prevent or stop this?

A marine biologist named Dr. David Vaughan has been transplanting corals in the Florida Keys in an effort to restore the dying coral reefs. He discovered this when he accidentally broke a piece of coral into pieces. He thought it would die, but it didn’t. Instead, it grew like ‘the dickens’.

However, not all of us are as brilliant as Dr. Vaughan. Even so, we can still help fight coral bleaching by doing any of these solutions:

Don’t waste water

The less we use water, the lower the chance of sending wastewater down our drains, causing the water to go into the waters that support coral reefs. This would also mean less water pollution and less pollution could mean a lower chance of bleaching event.

Minimize carbon dioxide emission

Fossil fuels produce emissions and this affects the ocean’s temperature.  Higher temperature will cause more risks of future mass bleaching. Some ways to reduce carbon dioxide emission is to be energy efficient and practice conservation; Use carbon-free or reduced-carbon energy sources such as solar power or wind power.

Plant a tree

Trees produce oxygen and help fight carbon dioxide emission. Planting even only one tree can help make a positive difference today. These trees will even be more helpful for the future generation.

Learn the effects of everyday products

Using fertilizers, pesticides and similar products can still affect the coral reefs, even if we live far from the ocean. These harmful products can go through the water system and may eventually reach the ocean thus causing harm to the coral reefs. Research for any non-toxic alternatives. Our little effort can go a long way.

Be responsible for the beach

Diving, snorkeling, and boating activities are some of the most fun things to do on the beach. But our coral reefs are so fragile. If one reef is damaged because the boat anchor touched it, it can cause stress in the reef and can potentially start the bleaching process. So, don’t touch the reef when diving or snorkeling.

Plus... 
  • Instead of driving every single time you have to go somewhere, try walking or biking.
  • Use organic or eco-friendly fertilizers. Even if you live far from the ocean, these products can quickly go down and flow into the water system, which can be added ocean pollutants.
  • Properly dispose of garbage. Any unwanted rubbish can be an added water pollutant and can harm both the reefs and the marine lives that live in it.
  • Be proactive. Plant a tree. Volunteer on ocean clean-ups or coral reef project. Spread the word to others.